Parents who are paying attention to what their children consume are no doubt aware of the move away from cane sugar-based soft drinks. The reason is the epidemic of obesity that is not only wrecking the health of the young generation, but also putting pressure on fashion designers to produce more choices for heavy-set adolescent girls. While at one time girls were mostly interested in maintaining a slim figure, today’s teenagers seem to embrace the obese lifestyle. Fashion trends are dictating larger and larger sizes for teen girls as Americans from all parts of the country bloat up under the deluge of sugary drinks.
Some food companies seem to be addressing the obesity epidemic with marketing rather than true progress. For instance, Honest Tea is a very popular drink made by the Coca-Cola Company. With great fanfare, they announced that their beverages would no longer be sweetened with cane sugar, but instead would use only fruit juice. While it’s true that fruit juice is sweet largely due to fructose rather than sucrose, nutritionally they are the same and they are both fattening. We endorse natural foods in general and we don’t see why beverage makers don’t use sugar substitutes like stevia, which is a natural low-calorie sweetener. Iced tea with stevia is delicious and won’t make you fat.
Technically, stevia is a glycoside that contains glucose and non-glucose components. Stevia is metabolized into a substance called stevioside, which is then broken down into glucose and steviol. Aha! you exclaim – this glucose must be fattening. Not in this case! The glucose is used by bacteria in the digestive tract but is not passed into the bloodstream. That’s why it’s not fattening. The steviol component passes unused out of the body as a waste product.
Another factor in favor of stevia’s use is that it helps some patients recover from diabetes by rejuvenating the beta cells of the pancreas. This is important because obese teens are increasingly contracting diabetes at earlier ages. A study conducted in 2011 showed that stevia benefits diabetes patients. Another study showed that stevia helped reduce high blood pressure, another side-effect of obesity. Stevioside has been found to:
- Reduce hyperglycemia
- Reduce hypertension
- Act as an anti-inflammatory
- May fight cancer tumors
- Is an anti-diarrheal
- Acts as a diuretic
- Can modulate immune system activity
With all of these benefits, we wish soft drink makers would offer kids drinks containing stevia instead of sugar or fruit juices. This might help kids lose weight and start a new fashion trend towards slimmer bodies.